High blood pressure can give you more than 'salt tooth': It may kill you too

By Jim Algar | May 17, 2014 10:41 PM EDT

Some people who have high blood pressure seem to have a "salt tooth" -- like the "sweet tooth" of sugar-cravers -- that may up their risk factor for strokes and other health problems, a study suggests.

The researchers say the study found people with high blood pressure tend to be "salt-seeking" and show a preference for salty foods, a concern because elevated salt intake is a known risk factor for high blood pressure, which increases the risk of heart attack, strokes and other health problems.

In the research, four groups of women and men -- two groups in their 30s containing people with high blood pressure and people with normal pressure, and two similar groups in their 70s -- were offered bread to eat, with low, medium and high salt concentrations.

The groups of people without high blood pressure concerns declined the most highly salted bread; the older ones chose "medium salty" bread while the younger ones chose the "lightly salted" option.

However, study participants who had high blood pressure -- from both groups -- showed a preference for the "highly salted" bread.

In a follow-up test, when he breads offered were additionally seasoned using oregano, a natural spice that is salt-free, all four of the groups roups chose a less-saltier bread than in the first study.

The researchers said it was preliminary proof people with high blood pressure may be prone to a preference for saltier foods, but further research would be needed to establish a definitive link.

"This trial did not set out to determine if there is cause and effect," said Dr. Domenic Sica, the president-elect of the American Society of Hypertension, which heard a presentation on the study findings.

"At this time, it's simply an association that needs to be further clarified in larger studies, with a more rigorous trial design."

Around a billion people worldwide suffer from high blood pressure, including one out of every three American Adults, the society says.

In the United States high blood pressure is a leading cause of disability and death from strokes, heart attacks and kidney failure.

It is often called the "silent killer" because it doesn't always exhibit any obvious symptoms and people can be unaware they have the condition, experts say.

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